Last updated: 16-Aug-18
By Dan Stinton
Time has flown since I was lurking around the Montane showroom in Kendal checking out the new Montane Via Trail series earlier in the year. We’ve survived another beast from the east, I ran the Oldham Way Ultra in training just in case I didn’t get to do the actual race, then I ran the actual race, then (my wife) had a baby, I moved house and have been racking up the miles training for the Montane Lakeland 50.
Other than that, it’s been fairly quiet.
What all this means is that I’ve been able to put in some long miles testing out the new Via Trail products. The full range consists of male and female tops, tights and shorts and the Via Trail running packs in varying sizes up to the Dragon 20 all treated with Polygiene, which is a first for any trail running pack range.
For those that haven’t heard of Polygiene, the idea is simple – the technology is based on a silver chloride produced from recycled silver that is embedded (on a microscopic level) into a textile during the manufacturing process and stays there.
The silver ions in Polygiene inhibit the growth of odour causing bacteria, and therefore the clothes shouldn’t smell after use.
In our sustainability conscious world, less washing helps and Polygiene have quoted a study that demonstrates that product production only accounts for one-third of the environmental impact and it’s the consumer use of regular washing and drying throughout a typical product’s lifecycle that impacts on greenhouse gases, energy use and water use.
But even with all the science behind it, does it actually work?
I initially had three products to test; the Fang 5 running pack, Trail Series Long Tights and the Fang Zip T-Shirt. Since then, I’ve also purchased the Razor shorts, admittedly partly because the bright orange colour fits in nicely with my running club colours.
Montane Via Trail Fang 5 running pack
First up is the Fang 5 running pack. It’s available in two colour options; either a red/grey or black/hi-vis yellow. The product on test is the black/yellow and certainly stands out from the crowd.
- 5-litre volume
- Weight 271g
- Bladder compatible, 2 no. 500ml soft flasks included
- RRP £110
There are two rear zipped compartments; one running the length of the pack (which can hold a bladder if desired) and a second spacious compartment at the bottom half of the pack. I really like this layout as it means I can use the main pocket for lesser accessed items/mandatory kit and then the bottom storage exclusively for food.
This kept things nice and separate and does mean that you won’t accidently throw away your £100 headtorch whilst rummaging for a £1.50 flapjack.
The material itself isn’t as stretchy as some other vests so whilst it’s spacious, if you’re the type of runner who is stuffing last minute final kit in an already full pack there’s only so far you’ll be able to go. There’s the usual elastic cords to pull things tighter if you haven’t filled the pack to capacity.
The sides of the pack feature two large stretchy pockets which are easily accessible when it’s on and feel reasonably secure so that things won’t fall out, unless it’s a large laminated OS map of mine which is blowing about up Kinder (Kinder Scout, Peak District, UK) somewhere.
Moving up front there is storage for two 500ml softflask bottles supplied with the pack. Unusually, one of the bottle pockets is zipped which gives a bit of flexibility to store other items that you’d like more secure (e.g. phone/camera) if you’re only carrying one bottle or using a bladder.
With another couple of shoulder strap pockets, one zipped, the storage on this vest seems usefully well-designed and accessible.
I find the pack/vest really comfortable to wear and it generally seems to wrap around the body well and certainly feels more like a body-hugging “vest” than a rucksack. The velcro “stomach” strap is easily adjustable and there is also a variable height chest hook to keep the pack firmly in place.
I’ve completed a couple of 40 mile runs in this pack and it stayed in position and has been comfortable throughout. The vented mesh inner keeps air flowing as much as could be expected. I’ll be giving it another long airing at the Lakeland 50 later this month too.
The pack is treated with Polygiene and after some long hot running it doesn’t smell sweaty, but I couldn’t help but think that I’ve never noticed any of my other packs smelling either, so I think the real benefit of Polygiene would be on the clothing.
On a slightly negative note, I’m not sure I can “blame” this on the product, but a few hours into my first run I looked down and noticed there was a 1cm rip on the stretchy water bottle pocket. I didn’t remember hacking my way through any particularly torturous bramble bushes or anything else but clearly something got snagged right close to my chest.
I’m prepared to give this the benefit of the doubt but you would expect high-end gear to be able to withstand a bit of rugged terrain. It’s now neatly (well, not neatly because I did it) sewn up and I haven’t had any further issues.
Men’s Fang Zip T-Shirt
- UPF protection of 30+
- Treated with Polygiene
- Lightweight material
- RRP £48
The Fang Zip T-Shirt looks great – in a bright “flag red” with a single grey panel on the right shoulder and matching grey zip.
I particularly like half zip designs as I find it really helps in hot weather. The main-body of the top is a grid structure material called Apex-Lite, with different (Apex-Pro) panels under the arms and finished off with some simple branding and a few reflective details.
It’s very lightweight and comfortable to wear and run in but I found the medium quite a snug fit (I have a 99cm chest).
What about the Polygiene treatment? After my first run I hung up the T-shirt and buried my nose deep into the armpit and inhaled – which is a sentence I’m unlikely ever to write again. To be honest, it smelt.
Don’t give up yet though, it wasn’t terrible, but certainly not fresh and not the “no odour” I’d expected. Nevertheless, I left it hanging and put it straight on for my next run a day or so later. Taking another sniff and it seemed similar, certainly not any worse.
I kept using the top again and again and it seemed to maintain a relatively minor smell right there under the armpit.
For one reason and another I left it hanging up without use for a week and it seemed to be a bit better after a general airing. A month after the first wash and it was still acceptable to wear, but I may have been a bit concerned running with anyone else.
I couldn’t help but think that I’d still be popping this in the wash along with the rest of my running gear on a regular basis, but certainly on a multi-day event or where you need to travel extremely light you should be able to get away without washing every time.
Trail Series Long Tights
- UPF protection of 40+
- Treated with Polygiene
- Zipped and stretch pockets
- RRP £60
There’s no bright colours here, the only thing indicating the brand (if you wear shorts over the top of tights that is), is the reflective “VIA” on the rear of the lower leg. With short zips at the bottom of each leg, they’re easy to put on and the ankles have a silicone trim on the inside to help grip to your legs or socks and there’s a different style mesh panel behind the knees.
There’s the usual zipped pocket at the back but also two stretch pockets either side of the back pocket. A comfortable elasticated waist with drawstring finishes them off. These are comfortable to run in, keep your legs warm and clearly a good quality pair of tights also treated with Polygiene.
I can’t really think of anything unique or stand-out though, it is a black pair of tights after all, but I don’t think there’d be a huge market for bright coloured tights here so they fit in well with the range.
Men’s Razor Shorts
- Striking colour
- UPF protection of 30+
- Rear zipped pocket
- RRP £40
I purchased these whilst testing out the rest of the Via Trail range. I’d been looking for a new pair of shorts and the bright red/orange sort of matches my running club colours so as I’d been pleased with the other kit I thought I’d try out some Razor shorts.
Of course, these are so bright I’m now an obvious and very visible target for my fellow runners at club races! I’m a 32” waist and the large gave a reasonably loose and comfortable fit. Like the rest of the range, they’re really lightweight and feel great to run in.
There’s a usual elasticated waist, rear zipped pocket and small inner pocket to hold a key or similar.
A word of warning though, as you agonisingly cross the finish line grimacing and grabbing for water, if you spill any on the shorts, you really do look like you’ve wet yourself – bright orange isn’t a colour to splash water (or anything else) on!
Whilst the inner brief is comfortable I did find a bit of chafing after a long run at the elasticated areas around the upper thigh. I’d personally prefer a compression-type inner layer as I never seem to chafe when wearing those, but that would add to the weight of course.
The Via Trail range looks great and all of the items I have tried performed really well. The overall design of the range is well co-ordinated and utilises a few bold colours and styles throughout.
The stand-out for me is the Fang 5 running pack – all the compartments are in just the right places and it has a decent capacity for usual mandatory ultra kit. It’s a shame the water bottle pocket mesh ripped on the first use – I may have just been unlucky, but I would expect any pro-gear to be able to stand-up to a good amount of abuse.
Whilst the Polygiene did make a difference, I couldn’t see myself regularly wearing the same top again and again, especially when I’m out with others as it doesn’t seem smell as fresh as when you put on a top straight out of the wash.
Like any pro gear, the Via Trail range isn’t cheap but generally seems comparable to other ranges of similar gear. Compared to other, cheaper, products I think the really noticeable thing is the quality of the lightweight material and the obvious levels of input that has gone into the design.
Next stop is the Lakeland 50 to really put that pack through its paces again.
All images Dan Stinton.
About the writer: Dan is currently training for the Lakeland 50, despite promising his wife he wasn’t going to do it. When not in the doghouse, he likes nothing more than escaping into the Dark Peak and then writing about how difficult it was at All Hail the Trail.
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